Jill Fry in Peacehaven

War in Feltham

By M Ashley

Photo:Jill Fry

Jill Fry

Photo from WRVS Heritage Plus Archive

Photo:Jill Fry Age 19

Jill Fry Age 19

Photo from WRVS Heritage Plus Archive

Photo:Jill Fry

Jill Fry

Photo from WRVS Heritage Plus Archive

Photo:Jill at Ronald's 80th Birthday 1960s Theme Party

Jill at Ronald's 80th Birthday 1960s Theme Party

Photo from WRVS Heritage Plus Archive

Photo:Jill Aged 3 18 November 1940

Jill Aged 3 18 November 1940

Photos from WRVS Heritage Plus Archive

Photo:Jill Fry's 69th Birthday

Jill Fry's 69th Birthday

Photo from WRVS Heritage Plus Archive

The War in Feltham

I gave this title some thought and the reason I chose it is because apart from rare occasions this suburb of outer London must have been quite a difficult area in which to be during the War, being on the fringe of where most of the bombs dropped, so the occasional one that hit near home must have been unnerving.

It was a pleasant Sunday morning September 29th 1939, of course, I was still too young to remember anything of the early part of the War.  From what I have been told for everyone in our Avenue it all seemed unreal.  Apparently, Dad was taking me to the park in the car.  By the War it was always known as the rec in those days.  Anyway, an Air Raid Warden with his new found authority stepped out into the road flagged the car to stop.  He jumped in and told Dad to drive him a couple of hundred yards down the road.  He ordered Dad to stop the car, he jumped out and then stood on the pavement.  Dad found this quite funny, a bit like a gangster film.  It seems everyone did quite bizarre things; a neighbour shut their canary in the larder and frightened it to death.

Anyone who had a spare room had to take in a lodger

Anyone who had a spare room had to take in a lodger.  Our first one was Fred the soldier.  He must have been waiting to be posted, as he was not with us very long.  Long enough however to crash through the iron bedstead. Mum went rushing in to discover him with his legs in the air and nothing on but his socks. That sets the pattern of how much Mum used to be always dashing everywhere.

We used three types of air raid shelters

We used all three types of air raid shelters.  The first one being one built down the middle of our road.  It was built of concrete with a door at one end and benches along each side.  It was very basic but most people were glad of them at first as they had nowhere to else to go.  The roads were very quiet as there were still very few vehicles.  Cars for private use were banned, so there were no more trips to the coast.

I remember fairly well the other two types of shelters we had but not in which order they were.  One was an Anderson shelter, which was a huge steel table which practically filled our dining room.   We all slept under it that is myself presumably tucked up in one corner, with Mum and Dad, and when there was a siren the lodger.  By then the lodger was Margaret Jones, surprise surprise.  She was very highly strung and one evening she was sitting at the "table" marking work.  There were no biros in those days, just one bottle of ink and a nib pen.  The siren sounds loud and haunting, and the bottle of ink spills all over the table cloth.  Just one incident of many, but I got the impression she was thought of quite affectionately by my parents.  After the War I remember visiting her home in Wales.

The other shelter we had was down the end of our garden, this type were called "dug outs", which is self explanatory.  It was a drop down in to it, so I would imagine Dad must have had some form of digger to excavate this temporary dwelling, I do remember the corrugated iron sheets on top.  Although we had bunk beds in our dug out we only went down there when a raid was on. Our neighbours shared it with us, that is Auntie Lizzy Uncle Tom their daughter Kathleen and their niece Cherry who I mention in the "Early Years".

A sense of humour must have been a blessing

Just one little example of how ordinary folk made light of what must have been a frightening situation.  We had a gate half way down the garden which was always kept open at night for easy access to the dug out.  One night it was accidentally left closed.  On the first note of the siren everyone duly ran down to the shelter.  Needless to say Mum was first, with me in her arms.  Everywhere was in complete darkness, as lights were not allowed, she flopped over the gate and everyone piled on top, they all got the giggles.  A sense of humour must have been a blessing during that time.

How differently we see things as a child

The only couple of incidents I actually remember about the bad side of War myself, was my Dad holding me up on his shoulders and trying to point out what must have been a Doodle Bug.  Another time when I was about four, I was playing at the bottom of the garden, it was a lovely sunny day when a bomb struck quite close over the back a couple of streets away.  Mum whisked me up and ran indoors.  I was quite indignant and said

"Oh Mummy don't make such a fuss".

How differently we see things as a child.  Sleeping on the bunks in the dug out was just an adventure to Cherry and I , but to the adults it must have been a constant worry.  But everyone knew each other and there was a camaraderie between them.  They made their own entertainment whist drives and musical evenings being most popular.  Some of those I do remember as it seems they each had their own particular party piece, Grandma donned a hat and cane and sang "The man who broke the bank at Monty Carlo".  Uncle Tom sang "My old Dutch" for benefit of anyone who has never heard of it goes something like this.....
"We've been together now for forty years,
And it don't seem a day too much,
There aint a lady living in the land,
That I'd swap for me dear Old Dutch".

My song was "Sweet Little Alice Blue Gown".  Mum and Uncle Con, who I have mentioned and will figure again in my middle years used to dance a comedy tango.  He was always game for a laugh.  Another thing they did was a "Wilson Keppel and Betty" routine, which was the sand dance wearing a fez and white face make up and dead pan faces, that was Uncle Con, Uncle Rolly and Dad;  and Mum used to do the Dance of the Seven Veils, they had a lot of fun.

Victory was declared

I do not know how I came to be at Bognor Regis when victory was declared; I know Aunt Zena was with us with cousin Michael, but not our fathers.  They would have been on fire watch duty as both were in a reserved occupation.  My cousin and I were allowed up late and were taken to the beach where bonfires were lit and everyone was singing and happy.

The war was over and I was just eight years old so obviously school life for me was well under way, and therefore some things I remember about the early years and school days must over lap.

There were great celebrations

1945, and I was definitely home for the victory party.  There were great celebrations.  Pianos were dragged into the street.   Mr Hales a neighbour who had an open back lorry spruced it up, as it was high enough to be used as a stage for entertainment.  Tables were placed in a line all along one side of the road, and everyone made as much as their rations would allow for food and drink.  We all wore something red white and blue and had Union Jacks to wave.  To us kids it was a great party, but to the grown ups it must have been such a relief.  That is about as much as I can recall regarding the War.  I was too young for it to have an impact on me, except staying up late and playing outside, as the government decided to order double British Summer Time and I remember what seemed to be permanent blue skies.

Jill Fry.

This page was added by M Ashley on 14/10/2008.

If you're already a registered user of this site, please login using the form on the left-hand side of this page.